A Funny Idea of Ethics – from the clergy

The oldest church here in Salisbury is St Thomas’. The C of E is of course a major landowner, a tradition followed  here, with the church owning the adjacent St Thomas’ House just across the square. I knew that the prestigious (!) Salisbury Homeopathy College ran its events there, and recently learned about a course entitled “Autism Spectrum Disorder and Homeopathy”, conducted by one Mike Andrews who has written a book of the same title. The relevant page has been taken down now but here is a screen shot:

There were only few days to go before the event so there was little chance of stopping it, but I was interested in the church’s attitude to this sort of thing. So I emailed them thus:

I am concerned about some of the events being advertised at St Thomas’ House. It is the operating site for Salisbury Homeopathy College, and one of their events is as follows:

14/05/2017 Autistic spectrum disorder and homeopathy

Autism is a distressing condition that is potentially serious. There is no robust evidence that homeopathy is effective for any condition, including autism. The Advertising Standards Authority does not allow homeopaths to make any therapeutic claims. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee concluded in 2010 that homeopathy is ineffective and should not be used in the NHS. Do you think it is appropriate for the church to be enabling this activity?

Very quickly the parish manager replied to say that she would pass on my email to the clergy and churchwardens. I then heard nothing and the course presumably took place, so I chased her up three days after it. Here is her reply:

I have now had feedback from most of the clergy team and the Churchwardens, who bear much of the responsibility for such matters during the current vacancy.

Whilst they fully appreciate your point of view regarding the practice of homeopathy, they also have to respect, and take into consideration, the views of others in the community, both that of St Thomas’s church and in the wider sense.

They would not, of course, knowingly or recklessly hire out St Thomas’s house to any individual or organisation engaging in illegal activities or anything they considered to be in conflict with St Thomas’s current mission statement or core values. At present, however, homeopathy is not illegal and they do not consider it inappropriate to allow the homeopathic college to hire rooms in St Thomas’s House.

If you have any concerns regarding their advertising, you will need to direct these to the Salisbury Homeopathic (sic) College direct, thank you.

So it’s the usual “not my problem mate” attitude. You won’t be surprised to learn that I was not about to give up at this stage, so pressed them on their central point:

Thanks for making your position clear. This seems to be that misleading vulnerable people by making false claims about health does not conflict with the church’s core values. Am I right? I made no suggestion that this event was illegal. I only asked if you thought it was appropriate for the church to support it by providing a venue. You have said that it is.

This of course stung her a bit, but not enough to accept my point:

To clarify, our position is that we do not consider that the Salisbury Homeopathy College is misleading vulnerable people by making false claims about health. Hence, this does not conflict with the church’s core values.

I did not intend to imply that you made any suggestion at all that their event was illegal, so I do apologise if the wording of my reply gave you that impression, I was just outlining some of the factors considered by the church in this situation.

This is very interesting logic. To make this activity acceptable to their core values, they use the simple expedient of reversing the facts. There is no doubt whatever that homeopathy has no benefits for any condition, so even advertising a course about autism must de facto be a false claim about health. The attempt to raise illegality as a factor was exposed as a smokescreen. As a humanist I don’t have any special regard for the clergy, but I would have expected a bit more honesty.

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9 Responses

  1. Mike Andrews is problematic for any organisation that has a ethical and/or moral standpoint. He’s certainly in breach of all sorts of legislation, regulation and the Society of Homeopaths’ Code of Ethics.

    Some Christians take a very strong view on homeopathy. The links to the occult and heretical Christianity like Swedenborgianism.

  2. I complained to the Society of Homeopaths about Mike Andrews. Here is their reply:

    “I have been made aware of your complaint against one of our members, Mike Andrews. Thank you for making us aware of your concerns, as you have brought the matter to our attention we will be looking at Mike Andrews website. I will contact him and take any action which we think appropriate.

    “However, you are a known member of the The Hampshire Sceptics Society and under the Society Professional Conduct Procedures s2.2 All complaints will be treated seriously, however under these rules a complaint may be rejected at any time, if in the PCO or PIP’s opinion, the complaint is “frivolous , or vexacious”.

    I am not a member of Hampshire Sceptics and don’t even live in Hampshire. This is a threatening response which hardly befits a professional regulator.

    • They can’t even write in proper sentences or spell! How unprofessional.

      But this is a very serious matter: they may be able to declare it frivolous (but they would need to be able to justify their decision) but it’s difficult to understand how they could cogently describe one complaint as vexatious, particularly since they admit they will be looking at Andrews’ website as a result of your complaint. But citing their belief you are a member of an organisation of which you are not a member as a justification for rejecting your complaint is just bizarre. Is there even such an organisation as The Hampshire Sceptics Society?

      This is definitely something the PSA should be very concerned about.

  3. Yes there is a Hampshire Skeptics Society – with a k.

  4. Reply from PSA:

    “Thank you for your email and for sharing your experience of the Society of Homeopaths with us. We would like to include this as part of our assessment for the Society’s upcoming annual review of accreditation. May we have your consent to forward this to the Society, should they wish to provide their comments?”

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